In search of healthy and fun meals to feed my family, with an eye toward sustainable living.

Here you'll find recipes & ramblings about keeping my family fed with what's available in Alaska between local produce, a little bit of wild harvest, and the modern grocery store.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dreaming of gardening...

It's mid April, and we're still getting the occasional snow showers: we woke up to 2 inches of new snow on Easter Monday (an official holiday in Germany, but here we had to drudge to school & work & dentist!), but it was all gone by the time I had my brand-new gold tooth!

Be glad I'm too lazy to post pictures right now -- it can be a pretty ugly sight around here: dirty piles of snow on the side of the road, covered with road grime. People are starting to find many long-lost treasures (?!?) in their yards, like presents from the canine friends... In some parts of Alaska the melting snow reveals an assortment of old cars and refrigerators...

This last week pretty much all the snow cover in our yard finally melted away. I see DIRT, and dirt means gardening -- but I can't really get started yet. My attempts at starting seeds indoors have not worked out the best in past years: besides the fact that I get extremely busy with teaching in the spring, I lack the space, lights, warming mats, etc and do a good job. All I get are spindly little things that I can't seem to harden off properly -- so I end up buying starter packs in May anyway....
So instead, I dream, reading about gardening, late at night while sipping some wine! I also have several notebooks full of notes from previous years -- my old gardening journals full of notes, and I review my dreams and failures from past years.

What might my garden look like this summer -- ideally I'd finally build myself a bunch of raised beds, and the moose would voluntarily make a wide path around them -- right?

Raised beds and container gardens are definitely the way to go around here, given the late start we get on warming the soil. NOTE: These pix are from an extension service -- I"m just dreaming...I got rocks and weeds where my dreamboxes would go. It will not be until well into May that we can even plant vegetables into the ground, but I like to start a couple of tomatoes plus all my herbs in late April: I baby them -- keeping them inside until the really nice days arrive, but always bringing them back in when nights are cool, or the wind starts blowing... Once it's nice (June, July?), my tomatoes pots grace the front entrance on either side, making me look like a more successful gardener than I really am!

Last year I did built a make-shift raised bed over a part of the septic system -- that's where I had successfully raised potatoes the year before, and I was really excited. SOOO, my daughter and I dug up rocks, and put a bunch of work into it -- only to have to be torn apart when we had to call a backhoe to dig up and fix a disconnected septic connection. SOOOO, once again, that part of the yard is just mud and rocks! (At least from a distance, they do look a little like freshly turned-up taters...)

We have close to 2 acres of land, but alas, most of it VERY steep and completely overgrown with alder, etc. The little bit of the yard that is flat is dedicated to a raised sand filter septic system, which is not exactly working as it should -- so it makes no sense to put a garden on top of that right now, even though it would be the ideal location!

In front of the house I have some garden beds that do quite well -- lots of flowers, but also rhubarb and strawberries. Other than snipping chives for potato salads, Rhubarb pie is my first harvest from my garden every year. Right now, I see a tiny bit of red on the rhubarb, and the tulips are just poking up a little bit of green. It seems a little later than past years -- but as my husband the weatherman points out, most people tend to have a poor memory of weather -- I may remember the kids looking for Easter eggs in the grass, wearing short sleeves (while other years it snowed, don't forget!), but then the actual date for Easter varies from year to year! Time to dig out my gardening journals & see what I recorded in past years:

Entry from April 19th, last year
This past Wednesday we had our 3rd big snow of April -- but most of the new snow is gone now. Rhubarb leaves are starting to uncurl -- just within the last few days.

Entry from April 25, 2005
Rhubarb leaves are the size of an adult's hands. Tulips are a foot high, and chives (overwintered) are ready to harvest.

I'll keep you posted, and will present you with a European recipe for the best rhubarb pie!


  1. YOu'll have some stiff competition from my fabulous pie. . . ;-)

  2. I read somewhere about a gardener who made his indoor plants get cold on a regular basis. The ones that survived were a lot hardier once they were planted outside.

    Could you put a raised bed on top of some geo-filter-fabric on top of a pallet and make the septic overlords move it whenever the system needs work? Might be a moot point if the raised soil doesn't actually touch the real soil.